Best PhDs In Criminal Justice

Explore the best online Ph.D. programs in criminal justice to take your career to the next level. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Professionals in criminal justice not only work to understand why crime happens, but also how to prevent it.

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People within the field work with law enforcement at the local and national level to keep our cities and country as a whole safe from various threats. Many people first hear about this career through watching crime shows on TV - they imagine an exciting job filled with lots of drama and suspense. While that may be true, this career is ultimately for people with a passion to help others in the community.

Criminal justice jobs are expected to increase within the coming years, with many jobs expected to experience a growth of 6 percent from the years 2016-2026. This is due to increased threats thanks to our globalizing world. Those who earn their PhD in this field will fill the highest positions and will be expected to be the leaders in policy development and implementation.

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What type of PhD in criminal justice should you get?

A similar field is criminology. Criminology is the study of crime. Criminal justice, on the other hand, is the application of the criminal justice system and other institutions to combat crime. Thus, the two fields are overlapping. Many PhD programs in criminal justice cover both theory and application, making this the ideal degree for those who wish to seek the highest positions within the field.

An online PhD program may be the best choice for working professionals. These degrees are generally more flexible and do not necessarily require students to be full-time. Coursework can be completed on one’s own time, while still having the necessary resources to work one-on-one with faculty in order to complete the dissertation. In addition, online programs may be more affordable, too.

Click here to see the best undergraduate Criminal Justice degrees.

How much money does an online PhD in criminal justice make?

PayScale states that the average salary of those who possess a PhD in criminal justice earn about $64,000. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have any information directly on PhD holders, the median salary as of May 2018 of criminal justice and law enforcement postsecondary teachers is similar at $61,900. In order to get an idea of one’s future salary, it would be best to research a particular position or career path within the field.

For example, the median salary of private investigators is $50,090, with the highest earners at the 90 percentile earn $89,200. The median salary of forensic science technicians is $58,230. Lastly, the median salary of police and detectives is $63,380. Unfortunately, there is not enough data to show the breakdown of salary and education for each position, but those with more education can expect to make more, provided that they continue having meaningful work experience.

What can you do with an online PhD in criminal justice?

As this is the highest degree of its kind in the field, there are numerous career options upon graduation: academia (teaching and research), field practitioner (working directly in the field), or in top-level management positions. As most people who obtain their PhD already possess several years of working experience, an online degree is quite common as it does not require one to necessarily give up all their working hours entirely. In addition, many people do not realize they may need to further their education until they begin working.

Below are some examples of possible careers:

What are the requirements for an online PhD in criminal justice?

Desirable applicants should already possess a master’s degree in criminal justice. Some schools may allow those with a similar degree to apply, provided that they take additional requirements. In addition to a strong GPA, applicants should include letters of recommendations, resume showing several years of work experience, and graduate test scores (if applicable).

An online PhD will consist of coursework almost entirely online. Classes will either be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous means that there will be set class times and timed tests/assignments. Asynchronous, the most common format, means that students can complete coursework on their own time by a certain deadline. Some programs may follow both formats. Furthermore, some online PhD programs will still require an in-person residency.

What are the best online PhDs in criminal justice?

We’ve found that the best degrees are those that offer not only fair prices, but ample flexibility and convenience as well! To find the best degrees for you, we look at the best schools in the country based on reputation, student satisfaction, program quality, and return on investment. Then we review the bottom line - just how much is this going to cost? Check out our methodology page for a more in-depth description of our data.

Once we determine all of the above, we curate a list of stellar schools for you! These not only represent the best degrees you can get, but also ones that will fit your budget. Check out our picks below!

  • Florida International University

    Miami, FL




    When people think of Florida International University, they think of meaningful research, world-class facilities, and excellent student programs. Located in the busy Miami, FIU is the city’s public research university. The university opened in 1972 with over 5,600 students. FIU has won numerous accolades, such as being ranked among the top 100 public universities in the country according to the U.S. News & World Report.

    Program Features

    Focus on the field of criminology through FIU’s PhD in International Crime and Justice program. This is a hybrid program where most courses are offered online. Students will be required to complete an in-person residency for about 12 months. They will also undertake research courses. Other topics that one could study throughout this program include:

    • Teaching Practicum in Criminal Justice
    • Data Analysis in Criminal Justice
    • Geospatial Crime Analysis


    Those who hold a relevant Master’s degree can transfer up to 36 credit-hours. Furthermore, students who are directly admitted into the program may be eligible to receive the MS in Criminal Justice if they already completed requirements.

  • Northcentral University

    Prescott Valley, AZ




    Northcentral University offers an online learning experience to adults around the world. It is affiliated with the National University System that is based in La Jolla, California. With programs from the undergraduate to the doctorate level, there is a program for everyone whatever stage in their education they are. NCU courses offer weekly start dates, no physical residency, and the same rigorous learning that any traditional on-campus degree would provide.

    Program Features

    Explore a variety of topics through NCU’s online PhD in Business Administration with a Criminal Justice specialization. Upon graduation, professionals will be able to evaluate current business practices and how they relate to criminal justice, identify solutions, and understand business theory.

    • Completion Time: 45 months
    • Weekly course starts
    • One-on-one meetings with faculty


    This program is extremely flexible to meet your busy schedule needs, such as allowing students to turn in their work early. Thus, students may be able to complete this program slightly earlier or later than the estimated completion time.

  • Nova Southeastern University

    Fort Lauderdale, FL




    Nova Southeastern University in Florida is definitely a school to consider to advance your professional degree. NSU was established as a small school in Fort Lauderdale. In the 60s, it was known as the Nova University of Advanced Technology. Gradually, more programs were added, including its distance learning programs. Today NSU is classified as a university with “high research activity” according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

    Program Features

    Upon completion of the online PhD program in Criminal Justice at NSU, students will be ready for a career either directly in the field, academia, or research. This degree consists of 60 credit hours; classes are interdisciplinary in nature to prepare students for a variety of issues within the field. There are three concentrations to choose from, where 15 out of the 60 credit hours will be spent.

    • Organizational Leadership
    • Behavioral Science
    • Juvenile Justice


    Students are expected to take three courses per semester. There are fall, winter, and summer semesters. This program can be completed in three years.

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